It’s been a frustrating campaign for the Toronto Raptors, one that’s left the team fighting for its playoff life, jostling for positioning in the NBA’s play-in tournament. A post-game press conference Wednesday that saw Fred VanVleet take referee Ben Taylor to task has seemed only to add to the tumult.
In the third quarter of Toronto’s game against the Los Angeles Clippers Wednesday — a 108-100 loss — VanVleet was handed a technical foul by Taylor. Following the game, the veteran didn’t hold back when asked about the night’s officiating.
“I’ll take a fine, I don’t care. I thought Ben Taylor was f—-g terrible tonight. I thought that on most nights, out of the three, there’s one or two that just f–k the game up, you know,” VanVleet said. “It’s been like that a couple of games in a row. Denver was tough obviously. We come out tonight competing pretty hard and then in the third quarter I get a bulls–t tech. Changes the whole dynamic of the game, changed the whole flow of the game.”
Past criticizing Taylor’s handling of Wednesday’s game, VanVleet also suggested he’s being targeted by Taylor specifically.
“You can look up most of my techs this year have been with Ben Taylor officiating. So, at a certain point as a player, you feel it’s personal and it’s never a good place to be. That’s not why we lost tonight — we got outplayed. But it definitely makes it tougher to overcome.”
VanVleet has eight technical fouls to his name this season — five of them have come in games officiated by Taylor. Oddly, the trend doesn’t extend past this season, though. In the previous two campaigns, VanVleet has had nine techs overall, with zero called by Taylor or his officiating team, according to Sportsnet Stats.
After the lengthy eviscerating of Taylor and NBA officiating in general, discipline from the league seems all but certain. But what exactly is VanVleet facing?
The maximum fine permitted under the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement is $50,000. History suggests the hit to VanVleet’s wallet might not be quite as hefty though.
Here’s a look at the recent fines handed down for similar criticism of league officials:
$35K: Paul George, Los Angeles Clippers
In 2021, Clippers star Paul George was hit with a $35,000 fine for accusing the referees of lying, and questioning the number of missed calls in a game against the Dallas Mavericks.
“Just a bunch of lies,” George said at the time. “Can’t go too much further than that. It’s a bunch of lies. They know what’s going on.”
George didn’t call any officials out by name, however, but instead lamented the fact that the Clippers weren’t getting calls he felt they were owed.
“I think a lot of calls are not going our way,” George said. “We’re putting a lot of pressure at the rim. It’s insane that we’re not getting these calls. Hopefully we’ll send a bunch of clips in there. The league’s got to take a look at this.”
$35K: Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors
In 2019, a trio of Warriors got hit with fines for their criticism of referee Marat Kogut, who had a string of controversial calls late in a game between Golden State and Minnesota.
Draymond Green’s wallet suffered the most, after social media posts from the veteran were taken by the NBA as Green having “impugned the integrity of NBA officiating.” In the early hours of the morning after the game, Green tweeted out “TD” and “MK” seemingly referencing Tim Dongahy — the former NBA official who allegedly bet on games during his time in the league — and Kogut.
Steph Curry and Kevin Durant were fined as well, both players speaking about Kogut specifically in interviews after the game — however, both were asked specifically about the officiating, and weren’t outright in their criticism, taking a sarcastic tone and dubbing Kogut the “MVP of tonight” and the “best player on the floor.”
Curry was fined $25,000 while Durant was fined $15,000.
$25K: Everyone Else
Go back through the rest of the league’s history of discipline, and every other case of players publicly criticizing league officials has seen said player hit with a fine landing somewhere in between $10,000 and $25,000 — as with Curry and Durant in 2019 — with the majority earning a $25,000 fine for their criticism.
In-Game Criticism of Officials
Discipline handed out for what the league deems inappropriate comments directed at officials in-game is a different story. The highest fine handed out in these types of cases was $50,000, once to Stephen Jackson and once to Green.
In 2010, Jackson was fined for making “inappropriate comments towards the game officials” after the Charlotte Bobcats guard went off on the refs following a loss to Detroit in which he was hit with a technical foul late in the third quarter.
In 2018, Green was similarly fined $50,000 for “directing inappropriate and offensive language toward a game official,” after getting into it with an official during a loss to OKC, and tossing a ball at said official out of frustration.
This season, the league’s handed out six fines for what it’s deemed inappropriate language directed at officials in-game, ranging from $35,000 (Marcus Smart, Ja Morant, Masai Ujiri) to $25,000 (Andre Iguodala), to $20,000 (D’Angelo Russell, JaMychal Green).
Ujiri’s fine came in October 2022, three games into the Raptors’ 2022-23 season, during a 112-109 loss to Miami. The Raptors president was disciplined for approaching the scorer’s table and “directing inappropriate remarks towards a game official.”
No one’s given up more money for criticizing NBA officials than Mark Cuban, though.
The Dallas Mavericks owner has paid $1 million in total for his infractions (along with a lengthy list of other types of fines), earning a $500,000 fine in both 2002 and 2020.
The first came after Cuban took the league’s officials to task following a 2002 loss to San Antonio, Cuban specifically calling out then-director of officiating Ed Rush.
“Ed Rush might have been a great ref, but I wouldn’t hire him to manage a Dairy Queen,” Cuban said at the time. “His interest is not in the integrity of the game or improving the officiating. The No. 1 priority of Ed Rush is maintaining power. There’s no question in my mind that [NBA commissioner] David Stern is not the most powerful man in the game. It’s Ed Rush.”
In 2020, Cuban called out the officials again following a loss to Atlanta, first confronting them on the court and then taking to Twitter to continue airing his grievances.
“Just when you think the NBA officiating can’t get any worse, guess again,” Cuban tweeted at the time, beginning a lengthy tirade. “This is absurd.”
The league is expected to hand down VanVleet’s discipline in the immediate future, with history suggesting he’ll earn a fine somewhere in the $25,000–$50,000 range for his trouble.